In May 2009, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the U.S. Department of Labor, the YEF Institute launched an initiative to help 12 cities put disconnected youth to work through creative and effective use of these American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.
The availability of new ARRA funding from the U.S. Department of Labor presented a unique opportunity to expand employment opportunities for disconnected youth - those between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school.
In particular, the recovery act provided states and local workforce investment boards with a $1.2 billion boost for summer and year-round youth employment services under the Workforce Investment Act that needed to be spent by June 2010. Thirty percent of the funds were earmarked for services to out-of-school youth up to age 24. The ARRA also allocated new money to training for green jobs and other high-growth fields, and temporarily increased YouthBuild and AmeriCorps funding.
During the initial phase of the project, a 12-city learning community participated in a series of topical webinars and received customized assistance from NLC. After six months, NLC invited four of the cities - Dubuque, Iowa; Manchester, Conn.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Tucson, Ariz. - to receive more in-depth technical assistance as they implemented their youth employment plans and sought to sustain cross-system collaborations. Among the cities' major partners were workforce boards, community colleges, school districts, county agencies and community foundations.
While the primary goal of the project was to help more disconnected youth find jobs, the initiative also sought to promote structural change and better use of data. Each city developed a set of concrete objectives and action steps for these three areas - jobs, structure and data - that were to be accomplished by the end of the project. Lessons learned from the project are described in a YEF Institute report to the U.S. Department of Labor.